It’s Monday morning, your earphones are in and you’ve got your office tunes blasting. What genre is predominately playing? No doubt it’s different to your colleague’s one desk over. So whose playlist is enabling more productivity?
Theirs or yours? Beyonce or Sticky Fingers? Drake or Flume? Adele or Amy Shark? Heck, the Triple J Hottest 100? Who wins when it comes to getting your work done?
Dr Katrina McFerran is the University of Melbourne’s Head of Music Therapy and Associate Dean. And she has spent many decades studying the impact music has on cognitive behaviour, wellbeing and health.
The good news McFerran delivers is 70 percent of it comes down to personal preference — not genre — so you can be listening to hip hop while your colleague blasts classical with equal musical motivation.
“The personal preference overrides any inherent aspects of the music which could be related to the rhythm or the harmonies or the lyrics,” Dr McFerran told The Huffington Post Australia.
“If you hate Mozart, it’s just going to drive you insane and you won’t get any work done.”
So the benefits of classical music are outweighed by your taste, but the other 30 percent comes down to the association held to a particular genre or song.
McFerran says lyrics which stimulate an individual can become a distraction, so it’s best to steer clear of those songs in your office playlist as “it is harder to concentrate if the lyrics playing catch your attention.”
“If you’re trying to relax and you’ve got a piece of music that goes up and down, that’s going to be much harder to relax to than something consistent over time that doesn’t distract you.”
“People have this optimism that the music would act like a drug, and override the personal influences in situations like work, but it’s actually personal preferences — which are based on not only the genres that you like but your associationDr Katrina McFerran
No genre is “bad” to work to. McFerran said heavy metal gets the worst wrap, but if you love it, don’t set it free. Play away. For workers in open plan offices, a higher level of intensity can actually be useful to overpower the inconsistent noise (read:talking) produced by colleagues.
So no genre wins, but there is one thing you can do to help your office playlist help you; be consciously aware of how particular genres, and songs make you feel.
“Most people aren’t conscious of the music they’re choosing so they just put on their favourite songs to go to sleep. But their favourite songs might be emotionally intense, and might actually bring up memories or reinforce negative feelings,” McFerran said.
“The key to using music for relaxation is to think, ‘does this music make me feel more peaceful at the end? Not ‘do I like this music?’
“Young people in particular merge it all together. They like it so they play it but actually, they need to raise their consciousness about how they’re choosing music.”
You can also train your brain to associate a particular song, album or playlist with working. So when it’s 8:30am and your first coffee hasn’t kickstarted a productive morning, that music can throw you into work mode.
“People have this optimism that the music would act like a drug, and override the personal influences in situations like work, but it’s actually personal preferences — which are based on not only the genres that you like but your association,” McFerran said.
“You can use music to train yourself. It’s this intentionality. You just have to make sure it’s not distracting you from the cognitive task at hand.”